How the Piano Works
There are a few key elements inside a piano to make it function beautifully
and correctly. Components include: strings, hammers, soundboard, frame and keyboard. If you wish to play the piano, you will have to understand the inner workings of pianos.
This will raise your awareness and appreciation for the magnificent instrument.
Strings are one the most important components inside a piano. Every time you touch a key, 1 to 3 strings are
activated and vibrate to create a sound.
The strings are a specific length, diameter, density and tension to create a specific frequency. If a high-pitch
sound is produced when a string vibrates fast, it most likely short, light and under a bit more tension than usual.
They are made of steel and are too strong for regular wire cutters. If strings are under the wrong about of
tension, the piano will sound out of tune and require some adjusting.
Each string is specifically tuned by turning tuning pin, made of square sides above round shanks found in the
wrest-plank or the pin-block. These turning pins are tuned by using a tuner wrench with a long handle and a square
socket, while the opposite end of the string is held down with hitch-pins.
In order to properly activate each string of the piano, hammers are installed. Pressing a key on your piano,
activates a hammer which rises up and strikes the necessary strings. Quickly, it lies back down to avoid
interfering with the vibrating strings. This function is called the escapement.
You will notice when one of your hammers is malfunctioning when a loud “clunk”
sound is produced. The hammer is unable to drop back down and interferes with strings. The size of each hammer
increases, as the piano increases from treble to bass.
Most modern hammers are now made with strong wood covered with felt. If the felt becomes too compacted, the
piano will cause an unpleasant tone. A tuner will fix this problem with specially designed needles to loosen the
The soundboard is the most important elements of a piano. It amplifies the vibrations caused by the hammers and
strings. Once a string is activated, the vibrations make their way a down a bridge to the soundboard. There are
wooden ribs that are glued down across the bottom to help spread the vibrations caused by the strings.
Cracks may form in the soundboard, however they can be easily fixed or left alone. During the dry winter months,
a humidifier will help prevent cracks from forming inside the soundboard.
Other important components of the piano are dampers, pedals, frame and the keyboard. The damper controls the
length of the vibration, controlled by how long you hold down a note. The pedals control these dampers in order to
create special effects.
None of the components described would properly function without a frame. To maintain against tension and abuse,
a piano must have a strong and stable frame. Studying the inner components of pianos and learning how to take care of pianos, will make you understand them and help
create a lasting relationship between you and pianos.